July 1, 2005

Correctly used condoms do reduce STD risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adolescent girls who always use
condoms correctly are indeed protected from common sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs), according to a new study. However,
the findings also show that only 16 percent of the young women
used condoms properly.

The researchers found that teen girls who consistently used
condoms correctly were 60 percent less likely to become
infected with chlamydia, and 90 percent less likely to have
gonorrhea, both leading causes of infertility and chronic
pelvic pain.

The most common mistake teenagers made when using condoms
was to start sex without a condom, the authors report in the
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

"Although messages directed at adolescents should encourage
delaying initiation of sexual activity, many are already
sexually active, and STDs are particularly common among this
group," write the researchers, led by Dr. Gabriela Paz-Bailey
of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Thus,
aggressive condom promotion must remain a key to reducing STDs
and HIV."

In the report, the researchers note that nearly 19 million
new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur every year
in the U.S. alone. Half of the people who become infected are
between 15 and 24 years old.

During the study, 509 teenaged girls attending an urban
adolescent health clinic were tested for chlamydia and
gonorrhea, and reported on their use of condoms.

Twenty-one percent of the girls had chlamydia, and another
7 percent had gonorrhea. Four percent had both infections,
Paz-Baily and colleagues found.

More than 70 percent of teen respondents who said they had
used a condom at least once in the last 3 months said they had
experienced condom errors, such as starting sex without a
condom, taking it off before finishing sex, breaking a condom,
or having it slip off. Only 35 percent of girls said they
consistently used condoms.

More than 40 percent of teens who said they used condoms
said they start sex without a condom, and teens who admitted to
this condom error were more likely to have chlamydia.

"Both correctness and consistency of use is important" for
condom effectiveness, the team concludes.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,
June 2005.